Michelle Wiltgen is assistant vice president and national marketing manager for ABA member National Interstate Insurance Company, based in Richfield, Ohio. Michelle has more than 30 years of insurance experience, 25 of them with National Interstate. She is the company’s longest tenured employee and is an active member of ABA’s Women in Buses Council.
Q. How did you get your start in the insurance business?
I grew up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Mentor-on-the-Lake, a suburb outside Cleveland, with four older brothers. This environment didn’t offer many female role models for me to look up to with respect to a career. It was the late 1970s and the prevailing attitude was that women would get married and have children just like their mothers had done. That was exactly what my family expected me to do. I realized at a very early age that if I wanted a career, I would need higher education, and I would be responsible for covering the cost of going to college. During my senior year of high school, I was hired by a local insurance company called Progressive Insurance. I worked there during the day and attended classes at Cleveland State University at night. Armed with a degree in human resource management, I naturally thought HR would be the field I would go into, but with five years of insurance experience, staying in the insurance field made the most sense.
Q. How did you arrive at National Interstate?
Not long after graduating from college, I received a call from a former Progressive colleague and friend who had recently left Progressive to become an executive of a newly formed insurance company called National Interstate. He wanted me to interview at this “start-up” company as a marketing representative. When I asked what they insured, he replied, “buses.” I remember thinking how odd that was, but decided to find out more. I left a company with thousands of employees to work for a company with only 23 employees and never looked back. Today, I can’t imagine not being part of the National Interstate family and the bus industry.
Q. Describe your leadership philosophy.
As one of the first female officers of National Interstate, I always felt it was important to lead by example. I want other women to see that it is possible to be successful, regardless of your gender or family background. Through hard work, dedication, and commitment, you can be rewarded with success. I mentor women at National Interstate on a daily basis. Every June, I conduct an internal professional development program called Ignition. The program was created to give groups of newly hired college graduates the knowledge base they need for insurance, National Interstate’s mission and vision, our corporate culture, and life skills. It’s very satisfying and fulfilling to be in a position that enables me to provide mentorship to young professionals who will serve the bus industry for years to come.
Q. Why did you get involved in ABA’s Women in Buses?
Joining Women in Buses was an easy decision. The organization is very progressive and focused on promoting and recognizing the efforts of women in the industry. It gives women the opportunity to network, learn, mentor, and be recognized for their strength, dedication, and expertise. I hope my involvement will encourage other women to be a part of something great.
Michelle currently resides in Lake Worth, Fla., with her husband Dann, who is recently retired from Prevost.